Short testimony at state senate hearing

Brothers,

I could use your help. In a few weeks, the South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs Committee will be considering abortion legislation in light of the Dobbs ruling. The SC House recently had a hearing and have subsequently put forward a bill that, at the very least, would close the three clinics in the state.

One of the senators on the Medical Affairs Committee is a friend and suggested addressing the following questions would be helpful:

Why do you believe the commandment, “Thou shall not murder” is a moral absolute that God expects us to apply to American civil law, since this is not a theocracy? Is the commandment simply a guiding principle that may be adjusted for exceptions within a pluralistic society or is it binding?

Impossible in three minutes, I know. What resources would you look at? What would you say? If not on those questions, what would you say in those short moments?

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Seems to me the bigger question is whether there are any objectively moral standards at all. Because if we deny the immorality of murder, then we also deny the immorality of racism, theft, rape, etc. Contained in the commandment to not murder is the dignity of all other rights.

The alternative is brute force. Might makes right. Those in power can should do and take as much as they can get away with.

But law, is the opposite of that sort of tyranny. Law always carries with it a moral character, which is why violence is exercised to enforce it. Tyrants have no need to objective laws or morality except only to better maintain their own power.

The question of the pliableness of the commandment Thou shalt not murder, is a question of whether we are a nation of laws or not.

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Great answer. Lends itself to pointing out the “might makes right” nature of abortion, too.

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My two cents…similar to what others have said.

No one actually wants a society where murder is available on demand for everyone. We just want to ability to do ‘what’s necessary’ when we deem it fit.

Again, when it comes to our own rights, I think all people want a pretty absolute understanding of ‘do not murder.’

The question is not, ‘should our society prohibit murder?’ The question is, ‘since abortion is so clearly scientifically and ethically murder, and since we all know that it is murder, how can we continue to offer legal protection not for those who are especially vulnerable, but for this specific form of murder?’ Do we really want a society where inconvenient human life is disposable? Who gets to judge which life is convenient?

I’d argue from a golden rule perspective, how we want to be treated. Tactically, I think arguing from the Ten Commandments as the Ten Commandments before a politically/religiously mixed audience can sometimes be counterproductive; not that it should be this way. Others may disagree.

As for resources, Watson’s ‘Ten Commandments’ on murder is really helpful, though not necessarily on the above questions.

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Excerpts from Abortion and the Church (which he needs to read):

Abortion is the violation of the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The Westminster Larger Catechism expounds on what this commandment requires of us positively:

All careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; . . . just defense thereof against violence . . . ; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.

God deals with men representationally and corporately. God judges nations for the sins prevalent among them. Even if there are people of God today who have not participated directly in the sin of abortion, we cannot claim clean hands and hearts. We live in a nation committed to the bloodshed of children, and God is just to judge our nation corporately, showering His holy wrath upon us all.

When the day comes when God’s judgment falls upon the bloodshed of our nations, will there be men of God among us we have seen and heard stand and preach as righteous Noah preached righteousness to his own generation?

Then pp. 51-53, subsection titled “Imago Dei.” Critically important.

I would differ from Aaron and others who would counsel caution in quoting Scripture, and specifically the Sixth of the Ten Commandments, nor would I speak positively by citing the Golden Rule. God’s Moral Law is summed up positively as the love of God and neighbor, but it is stated negatively. In the statehouse, especially of South Carolina!, I would start with God judging us by His character and law. I would point out that Noah was unsuccessful in preaching righteousness to his own uberwicked age, but that God commends him for preaching to them regardless, in the heroes of faith chapter in Hebrews, and so that’s a good enough motivation for you speaking now to them in your own wicked day.

Then I would point out that the reason God commands capital punishment for those who murder, commanding all of us through His command given to Noah (after He had wiped out every living creature except those in Noah’s ark), is that men and women are created by God in His own image and likeness. Then I would read the command to Noah out loud, ending by stating "This is why God hates those who shed the innocent blood of humans, and we do ourselves a favor by outlawing what God hates lest His judgment fall on us as it did on those in the days of Noah.”

Next I would move to the rule of law among men and say there is no law more basic to justice as always understood by nations everywhere and always than the horror of murder. There is no law more fundamental to the rule of law than the law against murder. THere is nothing more universally condemned by all nations and times’s rule of law than murder.

But does this mean that all nations everywhere and always have kept this law?

No. Two thousand years ago, the Roman Emporer Nero didn’t keep it, but he burned helpless Christians alive to light the streets of Rome.

More recently, Stalin, Hitler, and Chairman Mao slaughtered well over one-hundred million of their own citizens who were helpless to oppose them.

Back a few decades ago, the Rwandans engaged in a terribly bloody genocide in their tiny country that left 750,000 to 1,000,000 of their own neighbors and family members murdered—most killed by machetes.

And in the past half-century, all over the world–but particularly here in the United States—we ourselves have slaughted 50-100 million babies too weak to defend themselves, with no voice of their own. Ever.

So no, even if we dispense of the simple fact of the Image of God in man, every little one from the moment of his or her conception, and defy God’s command not to murder; even if we’re so godless that we make no reference to God in our state’s laws and debates over the passage of those laws; even if we allow God’s character and commandments to be removed from our public places and silenced in our halls and assemblies and courts of law; murder is the most basic violation of the rule of law possible, and always has been. Yet murder has always been committed by those strong enough to escape punishment. So they prey on the weak, and who is more weak, innocent, and defenseless than the little baby nestled in his mother’s womb.

Yes, you have no doubt there are those present—maybe many of them—who have no fear of God and His judgment. You tremble for what they will face because Scripture states it is fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. Nevertheless, there have always been those who have no fear of God. The godless, too, we always have among us. And yes, you know it angers them for you to cite God’s Word as your first and most authoritative authority for opposing the slaughter of teeny-tiny babies. Even the godless, though, should want to protect their own lives, and therefore the lives of others. Will not the godless have some notion of justice and injustice, and what is more injust than robbing another man, no matter how poor and weak and small, of his own life?

And so on…

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Would also be good to point out that it’s not whether we will have rule by a godly standard, but which god will be making that standard. Is it the current, vindictive, bloodthirsty god of our age or will it be the good standards set out in the law of God?

Yes, I very much agree on this point.

I think the challenge becomes making a simple argument fit within minimal time to persuade at the most visceral level.

Certainly more can be said than my suggestion, but probably not much more. A few points could be expounded upon but also I would also avoid any language that would assume I’m talking to Christians. The senate is definitely not the church in need of persuading. They are largely a pagan institution that needs the church to condescend to their level of interaction. I’m thinking like Paul at the Areopagus.

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Helpful, brothers.

Yes, that is the problem. There are 100 slots for testimony, and I’m #94. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. and I think the earliest I’ll be heard is 5:30 p.m. So, to be heard at all, I’ll need to have a single point and some way to say it that wakes them up and lodges it in their consciences.

The main audience, in my mind, is the conservatives who are lacking conviction and desire to leave the door cracked for abortions in certain situations. As my friend’s questions indicate, he believes some of his colleagues would be helped to hear something about the commandment that does not give off vibes of theonomy/theocracy.

What Tim writes here drives in the right direction, I think:

Next I would move to the rule of law among men and say there is no law more basic to justice as always understood by nations everywhere and always than the horror of murder. There is no law more fundamental to the rule of law than the law against murder. THere is nothing more universally condemned by all nations and times’s rule of law than murder.

But does this mean that all nations everywhere and always have kept this law?

No. Two thousand years ago, the Roman Emporer Nero didn’t keep it, but he burned helpless Christians alive to light the streets of Rome.

More recently, Stalin, Hitler, and Chairman Mao slaughtered well over one-hundred million of their own citizens who were helpless to oppose them.

Back a few decades ago, the Rwandans engaged in a terribly bloody genocide in their tiny country that left 750,000 to 1,000,000 of their own neighbors and family members murdered—most killed by machetes.

And in the past half-century, all over the world–but particularly here in the United States—we ourselves have slaughted 50-100 million babies too weak to defend themselves, with no voice of their own. Ever.

So no, even if we dispense of the simple fact of the Image of God in man, every little one from the moment of his or her conception, and defy God’s command not to murder; even if we’re so godless that we make no reference to God in our state’s laws and debates over the passage of those laws; even if we allow God’s character and commandments to be removed from our public places and silenced in our halls and assemblies and courts of law; murder is the most basic violation of the rule of law possible, and always has been. Yet murder has always been committed by those strong enough to escape punishment. So they prey on the weak, and who is more weak, innocent, and defenseless than the little baby nestled in his mother’s womb.

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Everybody knows that God is, and that we should honor Him (Romans 1:18-20). God has written that on each man’s conscience. It’s not that men don’t know; it’s that they’re suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. They’re fighting their own conscience. @adionne, work hard to awaken their conscience, because their conscience is on the side of the truth and is a great ally. Remember when you speak of right and wrong you’re appealing to things they know are true, even if they try to deny that’s so. And go for it!

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We are pastors. Our duty is to proclaim “thus sayeth the Lord.” I would not shy away at all of speaking of these legislators duty to obey God. To answer the questions. All people everywhere are obligated to obey God, whether they believe in Him or not. It is like gravity. I can say I don’t believe in it but if I jump off a cliff, gravity will still meet me there.

I would not shy away from citing scripture. When I signed up to speak to the Indiana legislature, I was going to speak to them of their own vow “so help me God.” They all take a vow that calls upon God to give them strength for but also seals their commitment. They are given authority by God. They answer to Him before they ever answer to constituents, donors, political parties, lobbyists, or their business partners. He has given them this office and they will stand before him. Scripture is clear and their consciences bear witness to it.

I don’t think we do any justice by pretending there is a neutral ground or even giving credence of some idea of pluralism. Principled pluralism needs to die.

Now figuring out how to say all that in three minutes and be more if may say “winsome” is a little difficult. But I am sure there will be plenty of pro-life catholics being soft and winsome.

I will pray that God gives you the words to say and uses it for his kingdom.

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Not that it’s the same, but I remember feeling quite impressed with James Whites presentation to the Phoenix City Council.

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Brothers, thanks for the encouragement.

I have spoken God’s Word at the state house and will continue to do so.

We know there will be abolitionist brothers and pastors there to testify—and we generally know what they will say. For the sake of diversity, I suppose, my friend suggested taking a stab at his questions. Maybe what he asks for is misguided or lacks courage, but he’s there on the inside, has relationships with the other senators, and thinks it would be helpful.

So, here I am trying to keep it in that lane if possible.

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Andrew,

I recently dashed off a quick letter to my state rep. It’s different and much lower stakes than speaking in person. She is a Democrat, but I would say more of a moderate.

I posed a rhetorical question of whether or not it is appropriate to quote Scripture on state matters, and answered that protecting human life for me is not a mere political issue, but it is at the top of the job description of state authority: to protect life. I raised Covid-19 as a comparison–that our state has taken extraordinary measures to protect the lives of the sick and elderly, and that this action was part of the state’s authority to protect life.

You may see that as a dodge, taking it out of politics, and just repeating that the state is obligated to protect life. But this is what I said.

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I want to clarify that I wasn’t counselling caution in quoting scripture. The golden rule is as much scripture as are the Ten Commandments, especially if you read Jesus’ teaching as clarifying what the moral law was always intended to teach. My caution on use of the commandments was a matter of tactics, given the audience and the limited time frame. Perhaps many in our day shouldn’t be so skittish about theonomy. But in the real world…

Jesus and the prophets plead and argue as well as rebuke.

That said, I praise God for @adionne’s courage and opportunity to speak publicly. May God use SC to further this battle to protect life.

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I would like to see what you come up if you write it out before you speak. Or if there will be a video of it later would you please share.

Thank you brother.

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I did one Wednesday night men’s group a year ago that touched on this. I just got the transcript up:

It’s section 1, titled “All rulers are responsible to make just judgments, as God counts justice”.

Maybe worth a quick skim?

(The talk’s purpose was not to encourage railing against the magistrate, but the opposite, to understand what it would mean if the magistrate did everything we asked and there was a great cost that we then found we weren’t willing to pay.)

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